Almost every mum I meet has some dilemma or other about getting her children to eat certain foods. I often come across parents who started weaning their babies on the very best home-made purées, introducing a variety of different tastes and textures from very early on as advised by all the popular baby food experts out there. But somewhere along the line – usually around the age the child starts developing a mind of its own – the repertoire of food gets smaller and smaller until eventually the only thing your toddler will eat is a Babybel and packet of Pom-Bears.
So how do we get our kids to eat that most elusive of food groups, The Vegetable? And why are they so important?
– Vegetables do not contain as much sugar as fruit and so are better for their blood sugar levels – behavioural problems are often linked to low blood sugar.
– They are an important source of fibre which keeps their digestive systems moving nice and healthily: constipation in children can lead to problems later on such as withholding, where they fear going to the toilet because it’s too painful. Avoiding this to begin with by keeping things moving is vital for their overall health and wellbeing.
– The vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients found in vegetables strengthen their immune systems to help them fight the constant onslaught of bugs that they are exposed to.
Here are 5 tips for you to try and get your little angels a bit more veggie-friendly:
1) Get them involved in the food shopping. Take them to a market and let them see the colourful array of vegetables for themselves, and let them choose some that they like the look of. Eating encompasses all of the senses so let your children use theirs.
2) Start small and praise or reward them (not with sweets!) for trying something new. Have a vegetable week challenge, and give them a sticker for each new food they try every day and reward them with something at the weekend like a favourite outing.
3) Be a master of disguise and hide the vegetables. You can make a pasta sauce out of pretty much any veggies and then whizz it up so that it’s smooth not lumpy. They’ll never know! I like using onions, garlic, leeks, celery, carrots, mushrooms, lentils, tomatoes and herbs, and stirring it into their favourite pasta shape with some grated cheese on top.
4) Raw vegetables can be grated, added to flour and egg and made into little fritters by frying them. You can use carrots, courgettes, sweet potatoes, butternut squash and add in peas or sweetcorn. They are delicious dipped in tzatziki.
5) Juicing! You know I love a fresh juice (just not a solid 3 days’ worth). Most vegetable juices can be sweetened with an apple, orange or carrot to make them more palatable for kids, but they will never know that you’ve also added half a broccoli stem, a bit of celery, a chunk of cucumber and for less squeamish kids who love a bit of gore, some beetroot makes it into vampire juice!!
Give these tips a go, your kids might even surprise you!